Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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Editorial: Mid-April 2011

November 30, 1999  By Marg Land

Ontario fruit and vegetable growers received some good news in early April as the provincial government released its budget, which included funding for a new self-directed risk management program for the edible horticultural sector.

Ontario fruit and vegetable growers received some good news in early April as the provincial government released its budget, which included funding for a new self-directed risk management program for the edible horticultural sector.

The news was welcomed by many in the fruit and vegetable sector, including individual producers and officials with the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA).
“Risk management ensures our farms are stable and our agri-food industry can grow through unpredictable challenges,” said Sandra Vos, president of the Brant County branch of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). “This truly is support our farmers can count on.”
“We are extremely pleased that the . . . 


government has come through for our growers,” said Mark Wales, chair of the OFVGA’s safety nets committee. “Growers continue to struggle with low prices and rapidly escalating costs and this program will be a game changer for us.”

Now the push is on to have the risk management program supported by the federal government, a hard promise to get as the country’s main political parties are currently (as of the date of the writing of this editorial) on the campaign trail preparing for a May 2 federal election.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is strongly urging its 37,000 family farm members to keep the needs of agriculture in mind when they vote – including federal support for the new risk management program.

“We fought hard to advocate for change at the provincial level and are proud to say that it worked,” said OFA president Bette Jean Crews. “Earlier this month, the Ontario government tabled their annual budget and announced full support for permanent risk management programs to safeguard our farmers from these unmanageable risks. But that will only cover 40 per cent of the public cost for adequate programs, and without support at the federal level, the remaining burden is left for farmers. That is not acceptable. Agriculture is a federal and provincial responsibility – farmers are in, and the province is in; now it’s the federal government’s turn to act.

“The new federal government must provide the transfer needs to secure a program that will work for each province according to the needs of that province. Current Growing Forward programs simply do not deliver what is needed.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Grain Farmers of Ontario chair Don Kenny in a letter to Stephen Harper.

“In this election, farmers across our province have united under a common request being made to all candidates,” he stated. “Fifty thousand farm families across our province agree – a fully-funded risk management program is vital for market stability, competitiveness and innovation in the agricultural sector.”

Hopefully the candidates are listening. The months after the results of May 2 will show whether agriculture is on the mind of Canada’s new government, whoever it may be.
The next few months will also show how much of an effect the United States’ new U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act, passed earlier this year, will have on exports coming out of Canada and entering the U.S. According to Dr. David Acheson, managing director of food safety at Leavitt Partners, former associate commissioner of food with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a speaker at the recent OnTraceability 2011 conference, producers and processors in both Canada and the U.S. will be impacted by the new law and need to be prepared.

“You can get in front of the regulations by using traceability to show you have done everything you can in the event of a recall,” he said. “Do what you can, that’s important.”
As part of the new U.S. legislation, all “importers must verify that foreign suppliers [such as Canadian producers] have adequate preventive controls in place to ensure safety and the FDA will be able to accredit qualified third party auditors to certify that foreign food facilities are complying with U.S. food safety standards.”

The FDA will also have mandatory recall authority for all food products.

All of this comes just as McGill University announces the formation of a new Chair in Food Safety, the first of its kind in Canada. Based in the agricultural and environmental sciences department, the Chair will lead the university’s newly established Food safety and Quality Program (FSQP), which will undertake collaborative research, offer undergraduate and graduate programs and provide independent expertise to the Canadian food industry in the area of global food safety.

“The reality is that food safety issues have been with us for decades,” said Dr. Chandra Madramootoo, dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “No one can foretell when the next outbreak may be, and our food comes from so many sources.”

The Chair is being funded through a donation from Ian and Jayne Munro. Ian is a graduate of McGill and is a food safety researcher with Cantox Health Sciences International in Mississauga, Ont.

The university hopes to fill the Chair vacancy this summer.

Just some food for thought.

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